Online Bible Commentary
Greetings to Rome, Part One
Romans 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome while on a three month visit to the church in Corinth, Greece in late 56 and early 57 A.D. during his third missionary journey. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.
The major doctrinal portion of the letter ends with chapter 11. The next section (chapters 12-15:13) takes this doctrine and applies it through practical Christian living.
This passage is part of the third, and final, section of the letter. This section is concerned with Paul’s plans for the future.
Paul begins this passage by stating his plan on how this letter is to be presented to the house churches in Rome. He introduces Phoebe, who will be delivering the letter.
He writes “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,” (v. 1). Paul describes Phoebe as a “sister” in Christ who serves in the house church located in Cenchrea. Cenchrea is a seaport town located about five miles east of Corinth.
Paul’s use of the Greek word for “serve”, “diakonon”, does not mean that Phoebe held some kind of office in the church as deaconess. She served by using her spiritual gifts to edify the church, for example the gift of hospitality. Paul limited the office of deacon to males when he required that a deacon must be a “husband” (1 Timothy 3:2).
Paul asks that Phoebe be received in Christian love, “in a manner worthy of the saints” (v. 2a). He also asks that the Christians in Rome would “assist her” with her “business” (v. 2b).
As another matter of introduction, Paul refers to Phoebe as “a helper of many” Christians, including himself (v. 2c). It is clear that Phoebe held a place of honor for her service.
Next, Paul begins to send his greetings to many of his Christian friends in Rome. These greetings occupy more than half of chapter sixteen, 14 of the 27 verses.
He begins by offering greetings to “Priscilla and Aquila” (v. 3a). He describes them as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (v. 3b).
Paul first met Priscilla and Aquilla on his second missionary journey. Luke described this meeting thusly “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.” (Acts 18:1-3).
Paul was in Corinth for a year and a half, likely living with Priscilla and Aquilla the whole time. When Paul left Corinth and went to Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquilla accompanied him. In Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquilla taught Apollos. No doubt, Paul and the couple were very close.
Paul recalled that Priscilla and Aquilla “risked their own necks for my life” (v. 4a). It is not known when this may have happened, but Paul sends his “thanks” and “also all the churches of the Gentiles” send their thanks (v. 4b). Paul’s ministry was primarily to Gentiles, but there were also some converted Jews, such as Aquilla, in the churches that Paul started.
Priscilla and Aquilla had hosted a home church in Corinth, and now hosted one in Rome. Paul sends his greetings to “the church that is in their house” in Rome (v. 5a).
Next, Paul sends his greetings to “my beloved Epaenetus” (v. 5b). The name “Epaenetus” is a male name in Greek and means praiseworthy. Here, Paul praises him as “my beloved”.
He describes Epaenetus as one “who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (v. 5c). This means that Epaenetus became a Christian in Achaia, southern Greece today.
Paul sends his greetings to “Mary”, referred to as “Mariam” in the original Greek text. The name “Mariam” is the Aramaic form of the name “Miriam”. Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. Here, she is described by Paul as one “who labored much for us.” (v. 6b).
Next, Paul greets “Andronicus and Junia” (v. 7a). The name “Andronicus” is a male name in the Greek and means “man-conqueror”. The name “Junia” means “belonging to Juno”. Juno was an ancient Roman goddess who was the protector and special counselor of the state.
Andronicus and Junia were described as “my countrymen and my fellow prisoners” (v. 7b). Likely, Paul is referring to them as being fellow Jews and “prisoners” that had been expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius.
Paul describes Andronicus and Junia as being “of note among the apostles”, likely meaning that they were highly thought of by the apostles. He also describes them as being “in Christ before me”, meaning they were Christians even before Paul. At this point, Paul had been a Christian for about 22 years.
Paul also greets “Amplias” (v. 8a). The name “Amplias” means “large” in the Greek. The name is a contracted form of the name Ampliatus, which was a common name in people of Caesar’s household.
Ampliatus was considered one of the Seventy Disciples by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Luke wrote “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.” (Luke 10:1).
Tradition has it that Ampliatus was a follower of the apostle Andrew and was martyred for his faith. Here, Paul describes him as “my beloved in the Lord.” (v. 8b).
Paul had many Christian friends in Rome, some of whom he discipled. His influence there was vast, even though he had not yet been to Rome. That was next on his agenda.